Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Who still wants to be a teacher?

"Ms. Crystal, do teachers really get fired if their students do bad on the CST*?"


Why, yes, that's a harsh reality that many teachers knowingly face every day. Sometimes I wonder, with all the bureaucracy and paperwork, long hours and loopholes we've got to jump through each day, with the added pressure of pleasing parents and terrible 'tweenaged young people -- who still wants to be a teacher?

*cst = California Standards Test, also known as the STAR test, also known as that document that you bubble in your answers.

I've been thinking quite a bit about how teaching affects or re-wires one's brain. What would a picture of my brain look like when I graduated college? What would it look like now? When I was taking those classes and interacting with people, challenging myself to further my own education, I felt like I could stretch my brain every which way, late into the night, in philosophical meanderings with like-minded folks. Now I need to forcibly separate myself from my gradebook, the textbooks from which I teach, and my email account filled with work-related topics and questions from eager students, and sometimes I find it hard to find the multi-syllabic words needed to convey my feelings about an issue.

For one, as a teacher you MUST adapt quickly to a new set of parameters each day. At least in my situation, during my first year it felt like every day brought a new set of rules and restrictions about what we could or couldn't do. One day a teacher would be out and my prep time would be sacrificed in order to cover for them; during lunch a student comes in asking for help, or consolation, both of which I immediately comply. I know it sounds cheesy but I get a lot of gratification in knowing that my words and anecdotes of struggle and success help a kid get through the next few hours. Or days. Or weeks. Or maybe not at all.

Time spent at home during which I am usually journal writing, drawing, or sketching potential knitting & sewing designs is now spent in sloth, sprawled on my bed watching television shows that I haven't decided if I give a crap about them or not.

Today I took a day off after waking up congested, weary, and sick -- but in a very strange way it was a great feeling to take something for myself after so many weeks of doing stuff for other people. I'm not griping about all the tests I've graded or the delicious foods I've prepared with others; I'm just saying it's one of the most difficult things for me to admit that I need to give myself a break.

It's even more difficult to take that break. :-P

Obama recently gave a Back to School Speech -- and of course I'm going to look at it critically. Four years ago I remember hearing about people protesting what seemed like every weekend in Sacramento for educational rights. I remember teachers, operating under a Republican government and agenda, fought more and with the general public than when Obama was first elected. I'm not 100% anti-Obama; in fact, I hate to admit to being 100% anti-anything (with the exception of a few things) but it is worthwhile to make the observation that the people will fight more and will fight harder for their rights under a system that they disagree with on a superficial level than a system that they agree with on a superficial level.

What the hell am I trying to say?

I'm trying to say that neither political side is going to give the public what they want because politicians are too busy trying to please everyone; and in doing so, they do not please everybody. No matter how many times I hear Obama elicit chants of Si se puede, it doesn't make this proud half-Latina support him because he is not taking care of the teachers (even though he was a teacher). No matter how many times I hear about John McCain's support for the US troops, it doesn't make me want to support him because he's not taking care of veterans (even though he was a prisoner of war and most likely suffers from PTSD).

My primary issue with a lot of politicians is that they don't put themselves out there. Sure, occasionally you get someone like Dennis Kucinich who IS a part of a mainstream political party and DOES push a "radical" agenda (like searching for alternate energy and halting overseas wars). He's one of my few heroes that's recognized on a national level. Cali governor Jerry Brown is another one -- if only because he gives it to us straight-up, no bullcrap.

In reading Obama's Education Speech I find myself coming across too many cliches to scribble down.
"We've accepted failure for far too long."
"Enough is enough."
"The time for holding ourselves accountable is here."

. . . I'm sorry if anybody reading my blog is a passionate Obama supporter, but if I were your teacher and I kept telling you that the time for change is now, after you've seen so many before me give the same song-and-dance, would you have -- dare I say it -- hope?

Class, it's time I expected more from you. It's time to demand results from [you] at every level. It's time to prepare [everyone] to out-compete any worker, any where in the world. My classroom's entire education system must be the envy of the world -- and that's exactly what I intend to do.

As plain words on a blog it doesn't seem to say much; said in a speech I'm certain it appears to hold a lot of weight. I do like what he's got to say about making education a "collective responsibility," but again, it's not a new idea.

The two main headlines I see prominently discussed are Education and the Economy. So which E do you think is more important? Will bailing one out help solve the other?

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